In the past two years, I have received more emails from Veterans than I do family members or spouses. Much of the same sentiment is echoed throughout each one; feelings of being alone, lost, confused, denial, hostility, anger and most of all...feeling like less of a man. Recently, I posted such a similar email on Facebook in regards to avoiding trash being on the road, the impact of being home, and the Veteran stating that he felt like he was less of a man because his wife had to drive him most times, that he still had a job to do and he was a leader of men in the military. I am not a professional but I use common sense and from the travels online that this life has led me through....I tend to see more outside of the box than many because you all place me there with different points of views, personal stories and sincere letters. Some of you I have seen come home, get deployed, come home again and deploy once more. It has been an amazing honor to talk to so many of you, getting to know each one of you and I have learned more from each of you than I ever could from a counselor, book, or support groups. I have been through suicides, babies born, love gain and lost, accomplishments and failures.....Where you went, I was there with you. Now it's my turn to give you something back in return.
As a woman, it hurts to hear each of you think that you are less of a man. Many of you, have no idea of how much strength, confidence and courage that resonates within you all. Because of you all...I found the strength to fight and the courage to keep going. Because of you.....I know you are out there reading and keeps me on the right track with good news, victories won, and positive things that happen in your lives. Some of you have been through hell. I am starting to find that more and more of us are traveling the same weary road and that we are just bumping into each other as we go along. Some have traveled with physical injuries, some with unseen ones and together...all of us are broken, desperately trying to pick up the pieces. What amazes me the most is how you see all the negative things but miss so much about you that I do see in all of you.
Less of a Man?
It took courage, strength, honor, integrity and pride to put that uniform on and place your life on the line for many who may or may not support you in the country; fighting for those who you don't know and will never know your name. We as women, family members, wives, sisters and girlfriends no longer need to see that uniform on to know those same qualities are within you. They will always be with you, no matter what you are wearing. No matter where you go, what life may hand you in the future...this part shall always remain a part of you. Anyone can put on clothing, but its what you do in them that tells us who YOU are as a person.
It takes a real man to step up to the plate and seek help for those problems that just doesn't seem right with you. The most courageous man I have ever met is my husband while I watched him walk down the hallways, after checking himself into a six week program through the VA for help. No matter how small he felt, unsure and a little scared, he looked like a giant to me with a chin made of steel built from the many falls and hits he took.
It takes a real man to struggle day to day, and still wake up for your family. That is love. No matter what you think about not having feelings or that you are numb...a part of you is still there and a part of you still wakes up for us.
We don't need you to sweep us off our feet any longer or try harder to win our love....we already said yes. ;)
We don't need you to provide for your family, bring home the proverbial bacon, or to make sure we are all taken care of. Let us take care of you for a while. You had your turn, now let us as a family help you get through this. One man can be a rock, but a family is a whole island.
We don't need diamonds, pearls, or fancy clothes to pamper us. What we need is that smile on your face even if just occasionally. We need that hand held, to listen when we are frustrated, to wipe our tears away when we are sad and to laugh together. It takes a real man to talk about their problems or things they are worried about. More than likely? Your significant other needs to hear it and feels the same way. There has to come a time where you decide whether you want to be in the fight together or alone?
A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
Helping you get through daily life, doing tasks such as driving or paying the bills, never made me look at my husband as anything less of a man. If anything, we are angry because as women we naturally want to comfort, take it all away, nurture and heal. In my eyes, it takes a real man to hold a woman's purse for her while she is trudging through the VA or at the grocery store with you. It takes a real man to reach up from his wheelchair and pat your hand. If you need shelter from the world, we want to take it all away and build you a fortress. If you fall....we want to be there to catch you and to take the fear away. A real man takes the time to say "I love you". That's what we want and what keeps us going.
Courage is walking into the VA system or anywhere and seeking the help. It's sticking with it and trying your best to deal with it. We know its not going to ALL go away, but it makes me tear up when I see my husband or many many others step forward and just do it. Most women don't want you standing in front us of....we want you to stand beside us. To me, that takes a real man to acknowledge that you and your SO are a team.
It takes a real man to realize his mistakes but even a better one for those that try to correct those mistakes.
It doesn't matter whether the outside world pummels us into the ground, I still see a whole being there. Most women like us, don't want the flexing of the muscles, measuring the penis competition, trying to be something that you aren't. It doesn't matter what you have lost...its all about what you are doing with what you have now. To me, that screams MAN all over it.
Occasionally, most women want you to take the reigns in the bedroom. Often, this can be a challenge with the medications or injuries. Sex isn't everything in a relationship and there are ways to work around it. It takes a real man to speak up to his doctor when things like Erectile Dysfunction (which is extremely common) and not be ashamed about it. Sometimes, being held while watching a movie or just being kissed is enough for me. Most women just want the attention. The rest, can be figured out and most definitely worked around.
Talking to other Veterans and sharing your story, is helping others. You just don't realize it. It's inspiring to me to be in a room full of Veterans and watch them from behind the scenes and listen. It takes a man to open up to someone else. Giving someone advice or that leading into another adventures because you shared your story...truly knocks this woman's socks off. That is a MAN.
We don't need you to pound on your chest, screaming "I am Man, You are Woman" all while dragging us around by the hair. The Caveman period is over. What we need is acknowledgement of our accomplishments and that we are still standing. Sometimes, we need a rock to lean on. Be there for us when we break down just as we are for you. Sometimes, or at least in the Mistress's case, I might need a really big, fat, hairy spider killed but I don't need you to be upset because the toilet is clogged up and you can no longer fix it. Kill the spider, we can figure out the toilet together. Kill the spider, and let me deal with the big, bad, scary VA for you in return. It doesn't matter about the rest of the world, as long as that damned spider is dead and gone! I think my hero is one who can tackle that spider and not shudder.
The most common statement from men is questioning their leadership skills. What the HELL are you questioning your leadership skills for? Is it because you are no longer leading? Is it because you are still leading, but are injured? How does being injured impair your leadership skills? A leader is defined as someone or somebody whom people follow; guides, instructs or directs others. This is based on integrity, respect, experience, behavior, courage, and strength. Did you lose those when you went to war and came home? Nope. Standing up and getting help, does not make you weak. Speaking up, may put you in a precarious situation especially with the military but I guarantee you one thing....there are many under you who are impressed, think you have a big set of brass ones, and respect you more now than they ever did before. By doing such, you are setting an example for others to follow. If you give up, you let them down. If you lead by bad behavior...you are losing the faith that others have in you. If you stand tall, no matter how many blows you have taken......people notice that. I would rather follow someone, who leads by example and against all the odds placed against them, across the face of the earth than one who sits back, is silent and does nothing. Leadership in true definition...isn't accepted by others unless you prove yourself. Everyone and anyone that has or had higher officers, Commanders and higher ranking in the chain, wonder how the hell they managed to scrape by, and how desperate was the military to put that person in that position of leadership, knows what its like to see some ass in a position that he cares nothing about. The integrity just isn't there and neither is the respect. To see someone below a SGT take the steps to get help, follow through, and try his best, outweighs any stripes, medals or stars on someone who just landed in there due to the years being in. To see someone in a command, doing the exact same thing...blows my mind as they are truly going against everything to make sure they are doing the right thing. Leadership is what you make of it. Never question that.
This blog is out of the norm for me, but it makes my heart hurt to hear so many of you writing in and sharing your stories, your fears but most of all....the uncertainty of who you are. Disability does not define you as a person. It doesn't change you are and you are still whole. Disabilities are just a new part of the person you were and that should never be something that anyone is ashamed of. As a Vietnam Veteran reminded me of a phrase he heard one time, "Let's concentrate on the doughnut, not the whole"; which is a really good way of looking at things.
Take a second, look in the mirror and say who you are and say it louder and louder until you can feel it. Each one of you is a bad ass, a force to be reckoned with and not many can honestly do what you have done. Don't forget that. That part never left any of you, no matter how many curve balls that life has thrown our way. Lean on your family, soak up the love that is in the form of help and positivity from your loved ones. We don't feel sorry for you, we want you to succeed. We don't want to fight this alone. We won't let you give up as long as you don't give up on us. It takes a man to really realize that its love that is holding all of it together. If you are single, then stop a minute and realize that its YOU that is making it happen without anyone's help. You were given a chance to be challenged...how will you accept the challenge and beat it??
I hope this reaches and all my readers really read this. I think this can go for ANY Veteran; man or woman. It can apply to our many spouses and caregivers out there. Please feel free to add on to my list and pass on to others.
The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.